McCrabb: Middie goes from volunteering at TV Middletown to shooting Super Bowl for CBS

Justin Jemison, 34, says he was one of the youngest on the camera crew in Las Vegas.

Days after shooting Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas for CBS, Justin Jemison admitted he was “still on a high, still feeling the energy from being there.”

But that doesn’t mean Jemison, 34, a 2007 Middletown High School grad, is taking a break from the business.

He shot the Xavier University women’s basketball game Wednesday night, one day after returning from eight days in Vegas. The rest of his work schedule is stuffed with assignments shooting Xavier and University of Dayton men’s basketball, FC Cincinnati, first- and second-rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for CBS, possibly some PGA tournaments, then most of the Cincinnati Reds 81 home games.

With all due respect to those sporting events, nothing will compare to the Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers, 25-22.

Jemison was positioned near the 50-yard line, right below Taylor Swift’s million dollar suite. He joked that he was paid to work the Super Bowl and his seat was a few feet closer to the field than Swift’s.

He arrived at the stadium at 5:30 a.m. Feb. 11, 10 hours before kickoff. That gave him plenty on time to pass through security, eat breakfast in the CBS catering tent, socialize with the rest of the production crew and check and double check his camera.

But it wasn’t until Reba McIntire started singing the national anthem that Jemison realized the importance of the moment for a kid from Middletown.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” he remembered thinking minutes before kickoff. “It gave me chills down my spine.”

Jemison understands how lucky he was to work a Super Bowl, the biggest game on the American sports calendar.

Especially at 34.

He talked to a 20-year veteran on the CBS crew. In those two decades, the man told Jemison he had worked just eight Super Bowls. During one production meeting, a producer told the camera crew that 200 people were waiting to take their positions.

“It’s like having 1,000 applicants for one job,” Jemison said during a phone interview from residence in the Banks in Cincinnati, near Great American Ball Park.

During the Super Bowl, Jemison worked an “isolation camera.” His job was solely focusing on Kansas City wide receiver Rashee Rice and San Francisco wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and the defenders assigned to cover them.

If the director needed footage for a possible replay for CBS announcers Jim Nance and Tony Romo to dissect, Jemison better deliver. His eyes looked through the camera for eight straight hours, including pre-game festivities, the football game, halftime show that featured Usher and the post-game celebration.

“It was an unreal experience,” he said. “Just to be on that stage was breathtaking. I always wanted to be at a Super Bowl. I didn’t think this soon.”

Some of the credit goes to his early development as a volunteer cameraman at TV Middletown. He said those at TV Middletown — he mentioned Ty Thomas, Brett Dennis, Lenny Robinson and Marty Flescher — were “very welcoming” and willing to teach him.

Robinson said his son, Chip, and Jemison were friends in high school and he has closely followed his career.

“I couldn’t be happier for him if he was one of my own,” Robinson said. “We had a Middie in the Super Bowl. That’s pretty awesome.”

Jemison has “a great reputation” in the media business that makes him an attractive freelancer, Robinson said.

“He’s a really good guy,” he said. “The sky is the limit for him. He has done what others aspire to do at the end of their careers.”

It takes more than a positive attitude to be successful, Jemison said. You better have patience, too.

He said those new to the business are production assistants. That’s a fancy term for gofers. Pick up rental cars for the TV talent. Pass out credentials. Deliver bottles of water to the crew.

Jemison, who earned his degree in computer science from the University of Cincinnati, remembers shooting a Tennessee Titans game late this season. Guys in their 20s were hanging the CBS banner near Jemison’s work station. They asked Jemison if that was his camera.

They couldn’t believe his answer.

His advice to them and others?

“It takes time, patience and willingness to learn and be teachable,” he said. “Network with as many people as possible.”

About the Author